Perfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) are a group of chemicals used in the manufacture of many industrial and consumer products, such as fire-fighting foams, fabric treatments, and coatings on non-stick cookware. The high stability of these chemicals make them persistent in the environment, and have therefore been described as “forever chemicals”. PFAS are being released into the environment from their use, manufacture, and unplanned discharges. They are being found in water resources, land, and in the air.
Due to their persistence in the environment, PFAS may accumulate in the bodies of humans and other living organisms. Based on current data, health effects that may be attributed to PFAS include reproductive, developmental, increased risk of certain cancers, immune system impacts, and hormonal impacts. The effects are being seen from very low levels of these chemicals. Research is underway and ongoing.
Due to its accumulation and persistence in the environment EPA has been tasked with addressing PFAS contamination in all environmental media. As a result, EPA published their PFAS Action Plan in February 2019, followed by the PFAS Roadmap (Roadmap) on October 18, 2021. The Roadmap outlines actions and establishes a timetable for addressing PFAS contamination in water (i.e. surface water, groundwater, and drinking water), waste materials, and air. Below see some key actions that EPA has taken or plans to take to address PFAS in drinking water and wastewater.
Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and Vermont have adopted regulations and drinking water standards for some PFAS compounds. In addition, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Minnesota, and North Carolina have adopted a variety of response levels, notification levels, and health advisory levels. In response to the published updated HALs for PFOA and PFOS and new HAs for GenX and PFBS, Arizona will provide information to public water systems on sampling, treatment, and funding options. Public water systems are encouraged to contact their State primacy agencies to learn about their current requirements regarding PFAS.
Stay tuned for updates on these efforts and how they may impact you.